The immeasurable impact of Tiger Woods. The Big Cat looked smooth with his 3-wood in Albany at the Hero World Challenge

The immeasurable impact of Tiger Woods. The Big Cat looked smooth with his 3-wood in Albany at the Hero World Challenge

LOOK: Tiger Woods does not look like a man headed for retirement in this range session.

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“Tiger Woods single-handedly changed the public’s perception of golf as he brought youth, style, and athleticism unlike the game had ever seen. Soon after his meteoric rise, kids all over the country were idolizing Woods, and more significantly, idolizing a golfer for the first time in their lives”.

At the height of Tiger Woods’ domination, he was superior in the mental and physical aspects of the game compared to the rest of his competition. Not only could Woods will his way to victory by intimidating any challengers, but physically he looked as if he was playing a different sport than most of them.

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The last 10 days have provided a total roller coaster of emotions when it comes to Tiger Woods. A year that has been mostly devoid of his name in the headlines has now been marked at the end by a compression of information that engenders all kinds of thoughts, feelings and opinions.

On Nov. 21, Woods posted a video of him hitting a short iron on a range, which was the firs time the broader public had seen him on video since his horrific car accident at the end of February.

On Monday an interview with Golf Digest dropped, and Woods seemed almost pensive about the present and nearly dismissive about the future. He said he didn’t have to scale Mount Everest again and opined about chirping birds and the feel of laying down on the grass in his backyard.

“I can still participate in the game of golf,” Woods told Golf Digest. “I can still, if my leg gets OK, I can still click off a tournament here or there. But as far as climbing the mountain again and getting all the way to the top, I don’t think that’s a realistic expectation of me.”

On Tuesday, Nov. 30, Woods spoke to the press in public for the first time in 2021. He wouldn’t answer questions about his car wreck (“all those answers have been answered in the investigation”), but he did double down on his desire (or lack thereof).

“I got that last major and I ticked off two more events along the way,” Woods said. “I don’t foresee this leg ever being what it used to be, hence I’ll never have the back what it used to be, and clock’s ticking. I’m getting older, I’m not getting any younger. All that combined means that a full schedule and a full practice schedule and the recovery that it would take to do that, no, I don’t have any desire to do that.”

Then on Wednesday, the PGA Tour posted a longer video of Woods hitting 3-woods on the range at Albany Golf Course, where he is hosting the Hero World Challenge this week, and everything he said in the two days prior completely evaporated.

Tiger talked on Tuesday like a man who could potentially play on the PGA Tour again in the future but never with the aplomb he once had, even by more recent standards. And while popping a few 3-woods with nobody else around is a far cry from the toil of grinding through PGA Tour and major championship weeks, Tiger’s swing still looks really good and he does not move like a man who had a 50% chance of losing his leg just 10 months ago.

Tiger talked on Tuesday like a man who could potentially play on the PGA Tour again in the future but never with the aplomb he once had, even by more recent standards. And while popping a few 3-woods with nobody else around is a far cry from the toil of grinding through PGA Tour and major championship weeks, Tiger’s swing still looks really good and he does not move like a man who had a 50% chance of losing his leg just 10 months ago.

Though this video will (and maybe even should!) engender a ton of optimism about Tiger’s future, it still fits in with the narrative he’s been professing. Tiger never said he couldn’t hit a golf ball, but he did imply that the grueling nature of preparing his body, his mind and his heart to re-enter the arena at the age of 46 is not as alluring as it was even a few years ago. He also said that he’s not even sure his body will allow him to put the preparatory work in that would be necessary to raise his game to the level he needs it to be at to contend in events.

Still, this should be encouraging, and perhaps Tiger is playing us all one final time. His golf wisdom and mental discipline are both off the charts and could allow him to contend at events in the future even without his best stuff. Nobody knows about that, perhaps not even Tiger. What we do know — what this last 10 days has taught us — is that even after a year of absence and even with a murky future, Tiger still still holds a sway and an intrigue that few athletes in history have ever held. He might be tired of us hanging on every word and every shot, but even after 25 years of this, we’ve learned that our hunger for him to do it one more time remains completely limitless.

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@TigerWoods

What Tiger Woods’ future schedule might look like

Tiger said if he returned to competition, he’d play a limited number of tour events. Here’s an educated guess at which events they might be

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NEW PROVIDENCE, Bahamas — When Tiger Woods told Golf Digest he’ll never play the PGA Tour full-time “ever again” and that he’ll have to “pick and choose” which events he plays, some pointed out that Woods had already been playing a limited schedule before his February 2021 accident. Yes and no. In 2018—his first year back after his spinal fusion surgery—Woods played 19 events. In hindsight, it was far too many. Woods himself admitted as much, citing fatigue as the reason he played so poorly in that year’s Ryder Cup. Vowing not to make the same mistake again, Woods played 14 events in 2019, which included an extended break after he won the Masters in epic fashion. The 15-time major winner played nine events in 2020, but that number is skewed by the three-month COVID-19 hiatus.
Woods has cruised in the 14-event-a-year range, but given his comments in the last couple days, there’s almost no chance he plays that much going forward. So if those were limited schedules, these will be extremely limited schedules. It’s also worth noting that Woods might not play on the PGA Tour ever again. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.
“I haven’t proven it to myself that I can do it,” Woods said Tuesday. “I can show up here and I can host an event, I can play a par-3 course, I can hit a few shots, I can chip and putt, but we’re talking about going out there and playing against the world’s best on the most difficult golf courses under the most difficult conditions. I’m so far from that. Now, I have a long way to go to get to that point. Now, I haven’t decided whether or not I want to get to that point. I’ve got to get my leg to a point where that decision can be made.”
For the purposes of this piece, we are going to assume that Woods’ leg will, in fact, progress to the point where he can play a select few tournaments. With that in mind, here’s our best educated guess as to how Woods would rank events—from the one he’ll play so long as it’s physically possible, to the ones that have all but certainly hosted Tiger Woods for the last time.

If he plays one more event in his life, it’s this one

THE MASTERS

No event has played a bigger part in Woods’ career arc than the Masters. It’s where he won his first major, blitzing the field by 12 and shattering a color barrier in the process. It’s where he completed his Tiger Slam in 2001, the most dominant stretch of golf in the modern age. And it’s where he won his 15th major in storybook fashion, summiting golf’s Mount Everest after virtually everyone counted him out. Woods has deep reverence for golf’s most famous event, and if he can only play one more event for the rest of his life, it’s this one.
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Woods’ victory at Augusta in 1997 began a lifelong connection to the tournament that will probably keep him playing the event until he officially retires.

The next tier

Open Championship

It’s not just that Woods cherishes the sport’s oldest championship; it’s that it fits his current game—at least, what we think his game will look like—perhaps better than any other. Links golf prioritizes guile over girth, precision over power. On a baked-out course that will neutralize length (insofar as that’s even possible), Woods can plot his way around and rely on his strength, his iron play. Woods said Tuesday that he’d love to play in the 150th Open at St. Andrews; that feels a bit far-fetched, but don’t bet against him playing in at least one more Open.

Genesis Invitational

It’s his event. He’s the host, it benefits his foundation and it’s on his home turf of Southern California. Despite his lack of success at Riviera—nowhere has he played more tournaments without a victory—it is the site of his first PGA Tour start, and Woods will do whatever he can to bolster his foundation. His presence as a competitor at this event would certainly do the trick.

Hero World Challenge

See above regarding the foundation work. It’s also a chill week in the Bahamas, with a limited field and a flat, generous golf course.

PGA Championship

Woods has fared quite well on PGA of America setups throughout the years (though that can be said for basically any golf tournament), and Phil Mickelson proved at Kiawah that it’s absolutely possible to, amid a terrible season, peak for one week and poach a major championship out of nowhere. Tiger has always built his schedule around the majors, and with the event now coming in May—when it’s not oppressively hot—he can take a full month off after the Masters to get himself ready again.
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Four of Tiger’s 15 major titles have come in the PGA Championship.

Memorial Tournament

Only four men have their own tournaments on the PGA Tour: Tiger, Byron Nelson Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Woods takes pride in being one of those four, and he feels a kinship with the only man who has more major championships than he. It doesn’t hurt that he’s won the event five times. The Memorial, you may remember, was the first event Woods returned to after the COVID hiatus in 2020. He’ll want to play for Jack.

The Players Champioinship

The Players is popular ridicule fodder for Golf Twitter, but Woods himself holds the event in high regard. “Our championship,” as he calls it. And TPC Sawgrass is another course that rewards precise iron play more so than brute strength. Woods also threw his full support behind the PGA Tour on Tuesday—he’s not open to joining Greg Norman’s venture, it’s safe to say—and this is the tour’s crown jewel. He almost singularly responsible for the large purses the tour hands out today, and the tour is hugely grateful to him for the attention he’s brought to golf. There’s a lot of love there.

HARD MAYBES

U.S. Open

Yes, it’s a major. But you couldn’t possibly cook up a worse fit game-wise for a late-40s man with his injury history. The courses are long. So is the rough. It’s a grueling test, both physically and mentally. And while he has three U.S. Open trophies on his mantle, he’s missed the cut in three of his last four appearances. If there’s one major he’d feel comfortable skipping, it’s this one.

Arnold Palmer Invitational

He’s won the event eight times, and it has the same sentimental value that the Memorial does. The only difference here is this comes directly before the Players, and we can’t see him playing back-to-back weeks again.
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Woods has won Arnie’s event eigth times in his career.

Farmers Insurance Open

He’s also won this one eight times, and Torrey Pines is the site of perhaps the signature performance of his career. But it comes in January, when it rarely gets to 60 degrees in La Jolla, and Woods has spoken in the past about how important warmth and humidity are for making his body feel better. The course is forever long and plays soft. It’s just not a great fit, but he could well feel that he can win it with his B game.

Tournament organizers who need a miracle

Every other event in existence

Count ‘em. If he plays all the ones listed above, even the hard maybes, that’s 10 events. Hard to think he ever plays more than that. As Woods said: “It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s my reality. And I accept it.”
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The immeasurable impact of Tiger Woods

This month, Golf Digest is commemorating the 25th anniversary of Tiger Woods turning pro with a special 116-page collector’s issue celebrating his career.

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A prediction: Tiger Woods will receive the $8 million first-place award of the inaugural Player Impact Program.
At year end, the disbursements for the nine other players will be finalized, all part of the PGA Tour’s response to the still speculative golden lures of a world “super league.” It shall be neither ironic nor surprising when the runaway winner is the guy who didn’t strike a competitive shot in 2021, owing, of course, to back surgery in January followed by the car crash in February. As much as Phil thrilled, Rahm rammed, and Bryson and Brooksy bickered, Tiger still contributes more to golf’s global awareness. Video of his putt from 2008 got more airtime than any other shot from Torrey Pines this year. Google search and Q-rating? That’s a lot of dots on Big Cat’s scorecard.
Such impending compensation only underscores that Woods is an active professional, and so with this special issue we celebrate the 25th anniversary of his pro debut. While our hearts root for Tiger to recover well enough to compete again, for now we mark this milestone.

 

Tiger Woods holding a golf club: Tiger Woods' opening tee shot at the U.S. Open.
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Tiger Woods’ opening tee shot at the U.S. Open. Tiger Woods has been working seemingly nonstop to get to the level of health he needs to be at to return to the PGA Tour. But one recent photo indicates that he’s come a very long way.At a recent event, Woods got his photo taken alongside some of his fellow golf stars. But a closer look at Woods shows that the 15-time major winner is looking incredibly swole.Woods’ arms completely fill up his short sleeve shirt. And his chest is practically ripping from how tight it’s fitting to his chest.Fans on Twitter love Woods’ new look.

Tiger Woods has been out of action since suffering a serious car accident back in February. He was only recently allowed to return to limited golf training and has been hitting the ball with some power.

Woods appears to still be some distance away from being able to return to PGA Tour events, let alone the majors. But that hasn’t stopped some sports books from giving him better odds than some healthy golfers to win the Masters.

We’ve all got our fingers crossed that he returns to the sports he loves.

How soon will Tiger Woods be back on the PGA Tour? Will we see him at the Masters next year?

 

 

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